From bobrankin@MHV.NET Sat Feb 28 17:35:54 1998
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 00:34:11 -0500
From: Bob Rankin 
Subject: TOURBUS - 24 Feb 1998 - Meet Alexa!

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Meet Alexa - a nifty (and FREE) new tool from one of the original
Internet toolsmiths.  Brewster Kahle is the brains behind this
innovative browser add-on which learns from people and promises to
fill in the gaps in navigating and finding information on the Net.

In 1983, Kahle helped to start Thinking Machines, a maker of parallel
supercomputers, and served there as lead engineer for six years.
Kahle then invented WAIS (Wide Area Information Server) technology,
which is a way to access remote databases over the Net.

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So What Does Alexa Do?

Alexa (which derives its moniker from the lost library of Alexandria)
does a lot of interesting and useful things. Here's a quick summary,
followed by a bit more detail on each feature.

 1) It reveals in-depth information about the website you're viewing.
 2) It provides recommended links for where to go next on the Web.
 3) It archives Web pages that no longer exist anywhere else.
 4) It provides one-click access to some handy reference materials.

Who Owns This Place?

When the Alexa toolbar is active, it reveals lots of interesting facts
about the owner or creator of the sites you visit.  For example, if I
pop into Yahoo! , Alexa tells me that the owner
of the site is a company named "Yahoo" located at 3400 Central
Expressway, Suite 201, Santa Clara, CA 95051.  There's a phone number
listed for the proprietors (408.731.3300) and you can even click to
view a map of the neighborhood if you feel like dropping in.

Note that Alexa reveals info on the SITE, but not individual pages on
that site which may be created by other people.  For example, if you
visit the infamous Pizza Server ,
Alexa says the owner is "California State University", not the wacky
Brian Hall of Pizza Server fame.

In Good Company

Alexa also tells you at a glance how popular a site is, based on hit
counts recorded from various caches on the Internet backbone.  According
to Alexa, Yahoo is in the "Top 10" of most-visited sites (actually I
think "Top 1" is closer).  You also learn whether previous visitors
liked or disliked the site, and you can add your vote to the tally.

Alexa gathers publicly available information about companies,
universities, and government agencies.  Hmmm, I see Yahoo had 1997
revenues of $5.01M but lost $1.28M, while keeping 155 employees on the
payroll.  Cornell University has 13262 students, with a tuition of $20K
per year.  But some reason, Alexa couldn't tell me who was sleeping in
the Lincoln Bedroom when I visited ...

Also of interest is the number of pages on a site, and the number of
links it has to other sites.  For Yahoo, those counts top 32000 and
304000, respectively.

Where To Next?

Alexa follows people as they bounce from one website to another, and
presents a list of suggested sites to visit next, based on what others
have done.  This feature can help you avoid useless sites and streamline
your web searches.  But you needn't worry that Big Sister is watching -
the people behind Alexa don't collect data on specific individuals, just
usage patterns for large groups of people.

Error 404 - File Not Found

Have you ever clicked on a link displayed by a search engine, only to
find that the page no longer exists?  Alexa has an 8 terabyte archive
of the entire World Wide Web, and even pulls Usenet postings into its
database.  Every few months, a new shapshot of Cyberspace is taken.

So next time you get a 'Not Found' message, there's a good chance Alexa
will be able to serve up a recently archived version of the page, even if
the page or site is no longer available on the Web.  Tres cool!

Information, Please

You want a reference library on your computer desktop?  How about instant
access to the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Merriam-Webster's
Dictionary and Thesaurus with one click?

This is a very nice way to combine serious research with Web surfing.
With quick lookups from EB or Webster's, you can get authoritative
information on most any subject, delivered right to your Internet browser.

Download Alexa and Know Where to Go!

Search engines - who needs 'em?  Use Alexa and find information on every
website you visit and suggestions on where to go next. I highly recommend
this FREE Win95/NT software as your ultimate companion while you surf the
Internet with Netscape or Internet Explorer.  Download your copy now at:

Using Alexa is a lot of fun.  I've never seen another tool that pulled
together so much useful data into such a small space.  Sometimes you feel
like you're spying on the Web, other times you feel like part of a
community that's building a treasury of knowledge that'll help those who
follow behind.

So don't miss out - download your free copy now and experience Alexa for
yourself.  (Mac users, I'm told an Apple version is in the works.)  Oh,
and I  encourage you to pass this TOURBUS issue along to friends who might
enjoy using Alexa too.  See you next time!  --Bob Rankin

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